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Nov. 23, 2013

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. – No. 19/14 South Carolina withstood early challenges to run away in the second half of an 88-54 win at San Diego State Saturday afternoon. The Gamecocks (6-0) turned an 11-point halftime lead into a decisive victory behind a 13-1 surge and 65.0 percent shooting in the second period. Alaina Coates led four Gamecocks in double figures with 21 points, and Tiffany Mitchell dished out a career-high nine assists The defense shut down the Aztecs in the final stanza, allowing just nine field goals and yielding just five points to their top scorer, who entered the game averaging 24.5 points.

The game got off to an unusual start with the Aztecs up 3-0 after the officials had the teams shooting at the wrong baskets for the first two possessions, giving Dozier’s 3-pointer to the Aztecs once the mistake was realized. The Gamecocks evened the score in a Tiffany Mitchell 3, but the Aztecs moved back in front with back-to-back inside baskets. The Gamecocks regrouped and took advantage of San Diego State’s rash of turnovers. After a Dozier 3 – her first official one of the game – a pair of Aztec turnovers led to free throws from Dozier and a transition layup from Aleighsa Welch to give South Carolina a 10-7 lead with 15:33 left in the first half.

Neither team put together long stretches of offense in the half, but South Carolina capitalized on the additional possessions generated by 14 SDSU turnovers to continue to push its advantage. After SDSU pulled within one at 14-13, Mitchell drove the lane for a bucket and her steal led to Khadijah Sessions’ first basket of the game. Another turnover delivered a transition layup for Welch, and the Gamecocks led 20-13 midway through the half. Back-to-back Aztec baskets cut the lead to four, but they would get no closer as Sessions and Dozier kept hitting from 3, extending the Gamecock advantage to 43-28. SDSU closed the half with four straight points, making it a 43-32 game at the break.

The Aztecs opened the second half on fire, scoring six of the first seven points in the half to pull within 44-38. The Gamecock lead lingered in the six-to-eight range until just under 14 minutes left in the game. With the score 51-43, South Carolina exploded for a 13-1 run as it turned up the defense and forced five straight Aztec turnovers, turning them into seven of the spurt’s 13 points. Mitchell was the catalyst as her jumper from the left elbow started the run, followed by a transition layup from Welch. Mitchell added a free throw, and Elem Ibiam scored from the left block. Mitchell picked up a steal on the next possession and hit the transition layup. After a three-second violation by the Aztecs, Alaina Coates hit from the left block to make it a 62-43 game with 9:15 to play. The Aztecs hit a free throw to interrupt the surge and crack the scoreboard for the first time in over four minutes. Mitchell drove the lane and dropped a circus pass to Coates on the left block for a bucket to close the run and put the Gamecocks up 64-44 with 8:42 to play.

With the home team reeling, the Gamecocks kept the pressure on, going to Coates relentlessly. The freshman delivered a personal 7-0 run that put South Carolina up 77-50 with 4:09 to play, securely closing the door on the Aztecs.

Coates’ second career 20-point game led four Gamecocks in double figures as Mitchell added 17, Dozier 16 and Sessions 12 to the offensive effort. South Carolina shot 52.7 percent for the game after the stellar second-half efficiency, and handed out 24 assists on 29 made field goals. Coates led the way on the glass as well, pulling in eight

The Gamecocks stay on the West Coast for a Monday evening matchup at Southern Cal. Tipoff at Galen Center is set for 8 p.m. (ET), and the game will air on the Pac-12 Network and on radio in Columbia on 107.5 The Game.